I’ll never forget the time I found his body.
“Go adventure with your buddy” he said, “life’s too short! Travel while you’re young. Army’s fun but now see it the other way.”
After school a friend wanted to see South America. To hike across Patagonia. I never cared. If I were to travel I’d rather be paid for my trouble. I barely walked anywhere. What I do is fear missing out, so I decided since my best friend was seeing the south I may as well tag along.
The timing was bad. Chavez just died and he wasn’t faring much better. The travel dates overlapped with his operation. Family wasn’t happy to see me go — except him.
Traveling was a blast. I didn’t have to plan a thing. We climbed Machu Picchu and sailed into Iquitos. Learned to surf and certified as divers. Hiked across mountain ranges and heard local folklore about Nazis. Everything magnificent and beautiful you ever hear about happening, happened. Even the mistakes and near-misses just made for better stories. Being young, mortality never crossed our minds.
I called home occasionally. Usually after a hike or being in the sticks a while. He was in good spirits. We didn’t talk much about what was going on back home. Our misadventures were good tales. I credit him for making me a decent storyteller.
We got home early summer. Canada is beautiful in June. The sun never truly sets and the clouds avoid the prairie. I was broke but the old man took me out for a bite, wanting to hear the last couple stories I had left. Plus the ones he already forgot. We found a patio somewhere to eat steaks into the evening. This was our first beer together. I was 24 years old. On our way home I found out this cold war soldier had quit smoking. A 45 year habit just gone. Cold turkey. I hadn’t noticed until he told me. I still regret that.
Then the day came. He was in bed through the afternoon. Eventually I checked on him, the sun creeping through the blinds. Out, face down, like a log as always. This time when I rolled him over nothing moved. Simple as that.
I’d like to say that the skies were overcast, that the wind blew a little harder, but that’s not how it really goes. Everything’s the same. Except for you. Except for them.
I can’t remember many times my dad said he was proud of me. Which makes sense. Not much to be proud of. But I wrote something once. And he was proud. He always wanted to see Spain. Hadrian’s wall too. I’m on my way to see them. Maybe I’ll write something good about it.